Greater Ancestors

World Museum

Eight Foot Chieftain

Austin's Hawaiian weekly., October 07, 1899, Page 5, Image 5

Eight Foot Chieftain

night and remained sane I cannot say. The ancient hermit reclined comfortably upon his pile of bones, telling me tales of Hawaiian folklore which, under less distressing circumstances no doubt I should have found instructive, while I crouched upon the rock close to the precipice which
formed the back wall of the hut. Eight Foot Chieftain
” At last mine host siiid it was time we entered the cave. ‘ That rock you are sitting upon stop the entrance.’ He’ picked a long stick, evidently for this purpose, and used it as a lever to pry the rock away from the
precipitous wall. The rock was so evenly balanced on rolling boulders that it easily swung out into the room, disclosing the entrance to the c ive, which was about three feet square.
” ‘I hope y u have good nerves,’ said the hermit, as he busied himself preparing a flaming torch made from kukui nut oil.
‘You will see a great many skeletons, but, of course, being a doctor, human bones cannot have much terror for you.’ ” ‘Yes; I have done a great deal of dissecting in my time,’ I answered as bravely as I could.
“We had to crawl in on our hands and knees to enter the cave, but once having entered, we were able to stand erect without ditliculty, and in some places the roof was, perhaps, eight or nine feet high. The faint roar of water could be heard in the deep recesses of the cavern, which, my guide explained, was the underground channel of the spring which caused the
little oasis in the rocky desert. On either side of the cave, laid out on ledges or benches hewed out of the solid rock, were hundreds of skeletons, that looked ghastly in the feeble light of the torch. The floor of the cave was strewn with loose bones and it was impossible to avoid making football of the skulls as we walked along.
Mine host chattered pleasantly, even cheerfully . as we went, called this or that giant chief’s skeleton by name, relating anecdotes of his life and deeds of valor. It was doubtless very interesting and instructive,
but I must confess that 1 felt very uncomfortable.
New Zealand is a unique country, owing to the sublime grandeur and endless variety of its scenery, including, as it does, magnificent mountain ranges, hundreds of miles in length, the peaks of which, pierce far into the region of
eternal snow, and down whose slopes travels the ever-moving glacier, bearing its stupendous burden of frozen snow and ice.
Then it has its volcanoes, both active and extinct, its hot lakes and boiling springs, its cold lakes, its remarkable sounds, its mighty rivers and countless waterfalls (one of which, the Sutherland, has a drop of nearly ‘.2,000 feet), its enormous forests with their giant trees and luxuriant ferns, its stalactite cavts, its (lowers, and beautiful birds. The Maoris, too, must be included in the attractions of this land of strangesights, for in fheir manner of living and traditional surroundings they are an ‘interesting and distinctly picturesque race.
An opportunity of seeing some of these wonders pictorially illustrated and described by a ‘cultured son of the soil has never previously occurred in Honolulu, it is therefore, not surprising that the unique and charming recitals
“These bones,’ said the hermit ‘that we are kicking around with our feet,’ and
he gave a skull a kick and sent it thundering down the cavern, ‘ are the bones of slaves. It is an inspiring sight during a manifestation to see these old chiefs get clown and dance on the slaves.’
” I began to feel that I would prefer to skip the manifestation.
“We had proceeded perhaps fifty yards or more, when my ancient guide stopped and turned around so as to face me. Reaching to the ledge on the left, he selected the shin-bone of one of the largest skeletons in the cave.
” ‘ What a giant this fellow must have been,’ he said. ‘Surely not less than
eight feet tall. His name was Kaunakakai.
He was not a very high chief, but his great deeds of valor won him a place among the very highest chiefs and kings.’ ” Suddenly, the hermit paused and stood in a listening attitude, with his glitteiing eyes fixed on mine. He seemed to quiver in every nerve as if he had received an electric shock. He waved the shin bone of Kaunakakai around his head as though it were a magician’s wand and shouted, his voice resounding through the cavern.
“‘The manifestation is coming; I can hear it. Listen.’ His powerful eyes were again fixed on mine. His excitement was immediately transmitted to me; my
nerves quivered and my fears vanished. I was all excitement and expectancy. A cold, clammy chill crept into the cavern, and a cold wind from whence it came I know not swept through the cave. An etherial mist, as it were, was borne clown toward us from the remote recesses of the cave.
” It is the manifestation,’ whispered the hermit, in awe. ‘ See. the cloud begins to take shape.’ And, sure enough, the mist parted into distinct human forms that, one by one, settled clown over the skeletons on the ledges.
“The hermit was still waving Kaunakakai’s shin-bone as though it were a magic wand, and unexpectedly, without warning, all the skeletons jumped down from their places and danced the wildest, maddest dance I ever witnessed. I was fascinated, spellbound. Around each skeleton was the
faintest misty contour of the human figure.
The wind whistling through their ribs, in not so varied tones as the teolian harp, made most doleful music. In all their mad dancing they conformed largely to the hula step. And it is not an inspiring sight to see a skeleton dance the hula.
“I did not lose my head until Kaunakakai took it into his head to jump clown
from his perch right beside me and began ijirouetting around me and dancing
the wildest hornpipe, which one of Captain Cook’s sailors had taught him. His white bones glistened with phosphorescent glow in the immediate rays of the torch, while his great, grinning skull loomed above me like a Nemesis the very incarnation of the devil. My nerve was gone. In ,i panic I fled, falling over bones, rolling over skullsand bruising myself over rocks, until I reached the entrance of the cave. Taking one terrified glance over niv shoulder at the
illuminated skulls, I saddled my horse and rode down the trail like mad. ‘if the moon had not been shining bright I would have been killed a hundred times.
“How I reached Hilo I shall never know, because I ceased to remember anythingafter I left the hut. I was prostrated for three days with nervous prostration. Oh; it was terrible! terrible! ” and Greenwood quivered in every nerve and muscle. During the recital the King had become more and more excited, and when it was over, he jumped to his feet and cried:
“I knew you would become convinced of the reality of ghosts.”
“lam not so sure that I am convincedyet, answered Greenwood very deliberate y. “During the manifestation, as he called it, the old hermit held the shin-bone in his hand and I cannot conceive of Kaunakakai’s dancing a hornpipe with one shinbone missing, whatever may have been his prowess at arms. After very serious consideration I have come to the conclusion
that I was hypnotized by the Hermit of the Death Cave.

“SHMl A Maori Residence

Austin’s Hawaiian weekly., October 07, 1899, Page 5, Image 5